FDA Vaccine Chief Suggests It's Time to Move on From mRNA COVID Vaccines

FDA Vaccine Chief Suggests It's Time to Move on From mRNA COVID Vaccines
A medic prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Netanya, Israel on Jan. 5, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The head of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) vaccine division suggested that it may be time to move on from using mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

The two most commonly used vaccines—made by Pfizer and Moderna—use mRNA technology. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine uses an adenovirus and Novavax's shot, the most recently approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the United States, is protein-based and most similar to the common childhood vaccines.

Speaking to Stat News, FDA vaccines head Peter Marks said that a long-term solution to COVID-19 vaccinations may not entail using mRNA technology.

“We need to look at other types of vaccines. And there are those out there that might provide more durable immunity,” he told the outlet. “I would love to see us have a very ecumenical look over all of the available vaccines and all of the vaccines in development to try to see what’s best moving forward,” he added.

“Not to diss the current mRNA vaccines, but because we owe it to the population to see what might provide the greatest breadth, depth, and duration of immunity against COVID-19," the official added, without elaborating on what the next steps might be.

That's because COVID-19 variants mutate quickly, meaning that even updated booster shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer could prove to be ineffective soon, he said.

“I would be lying to you if [I said] it doesn’t keep me up at night worrying that there is a certain chance that we may have to deploy another booster—at least for a portion of the population, perhaps older individuals—before next September, October,” Marks remarked.

Despite Marks's assertions about mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer want to use the technology for other ailments, including cancer or heart conditions. The head of Moderna recently announced his firm is working on a project to inject mRNA into people's hearts following a heart attack.

“We are now in a super exciting program where we inject mRNA in people’s hearts after a heart attack to grow back new blood vessels and re-vascularize the heart,” Stephane Bancel, the CEO, told Sky News in an interview earlier this month.

In the meantime, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said he does not recommend giving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to younger men. An analysis produced by the state found a large increase in heart-related deaths among males between the ages of 18 and 39 after vaccination.

“In young men, from 18 to 39, it clearly was a signal for increased risk,” he told EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program this month. “That was the main finding.”

“There are a number of studies that are indicating that these vaccines, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular and cardiac events. And we just added to that with another one,” Ladapo remarked.